London's Pulse: Medical Officer of Health reports 1848-1972

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Lambeth 1926

[Report of the Medical Officer of Health for Lambeth Borough]

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Puerperal Sepsis.
Much attention is being paid to this disease, it being felt that, as a
preventive disease, it should be non.existent. 34 cases of puerperal
fever (15 deaths) were notified, 11 connected with abortions and mis
carriages and 23 others out of 7,497 total births notified—a comparatively
small percentage, especially having regard to the large
Institutions and Maternity Departments of Hospitals that exist in the
Borough. At the same time, this comparatively small number (34) of
puerperal fever cases is above the averages (yearly) for the decennia
1891.1900 (18.9), 1901.10 (17.0), and 1911.-1920 (21.8), as is also the
figure for the previous quinquennium 1921-1925, viz.: 31.4, results
that are probably more apparent than real and to be explained
by more exact notification and diagnosis and the fact that septicaemia
following miscarriages and abortions (at all stages) are now notifiable
as well as septicaemia arising after the births of viable infants.
In this connection, the issuing of the Public Health (Notification
of Puerperal Pyrexia and Puerperal Fever) Regulations, 1926, which
came into force on October rst, 1926, will prove of value. It will be
noted that a symptom—puerperal pyrexia—becomes compulsorily.
notifiable as well as puerperal fever, and the definition of puerperal
pyrexia (as laid down in the Regulations) is as follows —any febrile
condition occurring in a woman within 21 days after childbirth or
miscarriage in which a temperature of 100.4°F. (38.0°C.) or more has
been sustained during a period of 24 hours or has recurred during that
Public Health (Notification of Puerperal Fever and Puerperal
Pyrexia) Regulations, 1926.
These Regulations represent a very decided advance in
notification, and they have, apparently, been issued in an
endeavour to stamp out Puerperal Sepsis (blood poisoning) in
all its protean forms. This task may, however, prove a herculean
For many years past it has been felt by the Ministry of Health and
others responsible that Puerperal Sepsis or maternal morbidity (.and
mortality) should, as preventible diseases, be prevented, such diseases
being due (for the most part) to the want of cleanliness 011 the part of
those connected with, and in attendance at, the confinements, the